Published: May 13th 2007May 13th 2007
Knysna has probably been my favorite place on the Garden Route so far. The bus dropped me off right next to their small waterfront, which is really lovely - it overlooks a lagoon and a mountain range in the distance, and it’s more mellow than Cape Town’s.
I walked toward the main street trying to find my hostel (all uphill by the way!), but no one seemed to know exactly where it was and with my 50-odd pounds on my shoulders I was not interested in trying to find it. I went into the first place I saw—Peregrin—and I am so glad I did. It was only 120R ($18.50) for a double, compared to Knysna Backpackers which was going to charge me R200. I got a really spacious, sunny top-floor room—with my first double bed in over a week, and huge windows overlooking verdant and hilly Knysna. The administrative side needs some work—a new owner had just taken over four days before and was still figuring things out—but the rooms were great, bathrooms modern and clean (with an absolutely fantastic shower) and there is access to a kitchen and laundry. The owner is a bit of a character, and
extremely nice—he offered to walk me into town for dinner since the streets were pretty empty. He also offered to help me carry my bags to the bus station the next afternoon when I was leaving, but what kind of "backpacker" would I be if I let him do that!
I have to say this was the first place I really felt uncomfortable walking around in the evening. The streets were literally deserted immediately after dark, and nothing was open, even on the main street. A couple of girls working in a video store directed me further down the main street where they said I would find many things open, but the only place I found was the same place the Peregrin guy had told me to go to, his local pub, Harry B’s. It’s actually more of a swanky restaurant with a pretty fancy menu, but it was one of the best meals I’ve had in S.A., both for the food and the people working there. (By the way—three appetizers and a liter of water cost R150 (about $23).) I was the only customer, so Vuvu, my waiter, was free (and luckily for me, willing) to indulge all
my (probably typical foreigner) questions about S.A. I was particularly interested in language stuff; he speaks perfect English, Afrikaans, and almost eleven indigenous languages. He was also a poet and musician, and a black belt in Karate! The manager of the restaurant, Rudolph, also was kind enough to chat with me for a while. His grandmother was a Boer born here around the turn-of-the-century, and refused to learn English because the Brits had put the them into concentration camps. (Apparently that's how such camps were invented.) So instead she learned several of the indigenous languages and became a translator for blacks who couldn’t speak Africaans. Rudolph also spoke three of the indigenous languages, and knew a great deal about S.A. history. It was a great meal and my first opportunity to really chat with locals so I really enjoyed it. I decided to take a taxi for the few blocks home (don’t let the drivers fleece you, mine tried to charge me R60 (yes, believe it - $9.25) for a 6-second ride).
After a fabulous night’s sleep at the Peregrin the owner, Bruce, cooked his traditional breakfast for R25 ($3.80) - a heap of scrambled eggs, multigrain bread, a
fried tomato, Canadian bacon, two fried bananas, coffee, and mango juice. It was enough food to last me all day (which ended up being lucky, you’ll understand why in the next chapter!). After taking advantage of their tremendous water pressure one last time I headed into town to walk around. It was much more lively during the day, I walked through some shops and then I made a quick stop back at Harry B’s where I’d nearly succumbed to my first loss in S.A. - my only sweater! Then went down to the waterfront to read for a while before catching my bus to Jeffrey’s Bay.
I highly recommend a visit to Knysya—I don’t know what it’s like in the high season, but in the low season it was calm and relaxing. Next, J-Bay…